Historical Figures Rest in Evergreen Cemetery
According to some records the first burial in what is now Evergreen Cemetery occurred about 1840. The earliest marked grave dates to 1855 and is that of Margaret Ann Ochiltree, the wife of Hugh Ochiltree. Her grave is near the Livingston family plot and also near the mausoleum of Dr. Samuel Brown and members of his family. These are only three examples of resting places of the pioneers and founders of Orange.
The cemetery was originally called simply “The City Cemetery or the Cemetery that Mr. Jackson gave to the city.”
“Mr. Jackson” was Robert Jackson who had purchased 35 acres of land in 1853. That land included what is now the cemetery and already had at least one grave present. Jackson allowed the land to continue to be used for burials and it was named Evergreen Cemetery in 1898 or 1899.
There are fewer that 100 marked graves that date before 1900. Most of these are pioneer settlers that died in their 40’s or 50’s. That seemed to be the average lifespan in that time.
Over the years some of the earlier graves have been lost due to some grave markers sinking into the often wet, boggy ground. Others have been lost due to the neglect caused by family members moving away or all of the family dying off.
As late as the early 1950’s there were still several wooden grave markers in place.
Those have disappeared due to the natural erosion of the wood.
Some graves were never marked clearly at the time of burial.
Burial customs were slightly different in the 1800’s and early 1900’s graves were dug deeper at that time. “Six feet under” seemed to have been taken literally. At times a grave being dug in the East End of the cemetery, near Border Street would discover traces of an earlier grave.
Before the operation of privately owned cemeteries the majority of the residents of Orange who died were buried in Evergreen. A walk through the cemetery is a lesson in the history of Orange. Almost any of the persons who pioneered the settlement and the growth of Orange in the early days are buried in Evergreen. There also hundreds of ordinary citizens who contributed to the growth of the city buried in the cemetery.
Participants of the wars that were fought from the Civil War to the current wars have soldiers and veterans of those wars buried here. Many military grave markers denoting the veteran’s war, branch of service and rank can be found.
One large carved granite stone is the monument to the Unknown Confederate soldiers. This is located just inside the first gate as you approach the cemetery from Border Street. As you turn into the gate the monument is located on the left and is the largest monument in that area.
Near to that monument is a lot capable of holding 12 grave spaces. The few graves on that lot are unmarked, but are recorded in the cemetery records. These are the graves of persons who died with no family and usually with little or no means of support. This lot was designated for it’s use by the cemetery association in the early 1920’s. It was referred to as the “pauper’s lot.” Burials on that lot were often only attended by the undertaker, a preacher and the cemetery workers.
The area of the cemetery is over four times larger than the original plot. There are now nearly 16000 graves.
The cemetery is still in active use with about three burials a month occurring. There are about 5000 lots available for use.
Administration of the cemetery is done by the Evergreen Cemetery Association. The current organization of the association was done in 1947. There officers and a board of directors who meet every other month to discuss the operation of the cemetery.
The day to day operation of the cemetery is done by General Manager Roland Wolfford. The preparation of the graves, setting of grave markers and mowing of the cemetery is done on a contract basis with Wolfford being the overseer of the work. Wolfford said, “Hurricane Rita hit us hard. We lost 28 trees and had the cleanup to do. We only have two more trees and stumps to grind to be through with that. We are in the process of getting some dirt piles removed and we have bought some new equipment for weed trimming. The cemetery is getting in better shape every day.”
The cemetery association has long range plans in place for both the physical and financial operation of the cemetery.
Operating funds for the cemetery come from sales of lots, burials, investments and donations. The meetings of the association are open and the public is encouraged to attend. Continued operation of the cemetery is preserving a vital part of the history of Orange.
Information about Evergreen Cemetery may be obtained by calling the cemetery office at 409-882-0197. The address of the cemetery is 920 Jackson Street. The office is open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Wolfford is often in the cemetery. He said, “if I am not in the office, just drive through and look for me.” Wolfford has the information about the prices for grave spaces and services of the cemetery.
Officers of the association are: Louise Mayberry, President, J. Carlton (Corky) Harmon, Vice President, Shirley A. Wolfford, Secretary, Cheryl David, Treasurer, and Legal Adviser, Douglas Manning.
The cemetery operates as a 501 (c) 13 (not for profit) entity. Any donations made to the cemetery are tax deductible.
To make a donation please send it to: Evergreen Cemetery Trust Fund, P.O. Box 381, Orange, Texas, 77631-0381